Millions in unpaid 'carriage fees' led to pullout of NBA channels from SKYcable, says report
Finding a resolution to the SKYcable-Solar dispute is easier said than done especially with the amount involved as well as the complexity of the dispute between the Lopez family-owned cable service and Solar Entertainment of the Tieng family.

MONEY, it has now become apparent, is the root of the problem in as far as the absence of NBA Premium TV and Basketball TV along with other Solar Entertainment Group cable channels from the SKYcable lineup is concerned.

And it’s no small change, as the conflict between the country’s largest cable TV service and the Solar organization has come to a boil due to a dispute in unpaid ‘carriage fees’ running to hundreds of millions of pesos, according to Inquirer’s Biz Buzz column on Wednesday.

Frustrated NBA fans subscribed to Sky Cable were left perplexed last week with the sudden channel outage of NBA Premium TV and Basketball TV right before the playoffs began.

The Lopez-owned cable company issued a statement last Friday, saying they are ‘working on a resolution’ on bringing the Solar-owned channels back but offered no timetable for the return of the two NBA channels.

[See SKYcable unable to give timetable for return of NBA channels to cable service]

But finding a resolution is easier said than done especially with the amount involved as well as the complexity of the dispute between the Lopez family-owned SKYcable and Solar Entertainment of the Tieng family.

According to Inquirer’s Biz Buzz column, the conflict stemmed from an agreement reached three years ago on the right to broadcast the NBA games between the league, Solar and ABS-CBN.

After Solar’s initial 2010 contract with the NBA ended, ABS-CBN came in as a new party in the current deal where Solar continued to broadcast games on cable channels Basketball TV and NBA Premium, while Channel 2 and ABS-CBN Sports+Action got the rights to show games on free TV.

Solar claimed ABS-CBN stopped paying carriage fees for its NBA channels on Sky Cable soon as they entered the new deal, citing the license fee they paid to the NBA already included their payment for the Solar channels.

When SKYcable included NBA Premium in a direct-to-home package that was not part of their channel carriage agreement, Solar told the cable company to remove their NBA channel from such service but their complaint was not addressed, according to the Inquirer column.

The Solar group then demanded P321 million in unpaid carriage fees, but ABS-CBN countered with a settlement of P80 million. When Solar refused and reiterated to the country’s largest television network already owed P659 million in carriage fees, ABS-CBN again responded with an offer to pay P111 million.

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This was the last straw for Solar as it pulled out all its channels from SKYcable, to the detriment of the latter’s irate subscribers already missing their NBA fix with the first round of the playoffs underway.

SKYcable subscribers can only hope a settlement is reached soon, but judging from the complexity of the issue, that is easier said than done.

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